Read Playing the Perfect Boyfriend (Gone Hollywood) Online

Authors: Julie Particka

Tags: #opposites attract, #fake relationship, #bait and switch, #Brazen, #Julie Particka, #Entangled, #sexy, #Hollywood, #contemporary romance

Playing the Perfect Boyfriend (Gone Hollywood) (10 page)

BOOK: Playing the Perfect Boyfriend (Gone Hollywood)
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So Dean found himself back at the house he officially
shared with Todrick and Chaz. Pizza boxes were stacked on the counter, and he didn’t want to think about what was growing in the sink. The kitchen didn’t matter. He wasn’t here to eat.

“Hey, you guys around?”

Chaz stumbled into the hallway, rubbing at his eyes. “What the fuck are you doing here? Lady troubles?”

“Nah. She had a job, and I hadn’t seen you fucks in a couple of weeks. I was going to ask if you wanted to grab some pizza and beer, but it looks like that’s been standard operating procedure around here lately.”

Snorting, Chaz picked up a shirt from the back of the couch, sniffed it, and pulled it on. “Would you buy that we had a party last night?”

“With you coming down the hall alone and no one yelling after?” Dean arched a brow. “Not on your life.”

Chaz shrugged. “Poker game. Some people Tod knows.”

He should have known. He’d put a stop to the gambling while he’d lived with them, but he’d been stupid to think Tod would keep it under control without him around. “How much did he lose?”

“It was a fifty dollar buy-in, chips only. I made sure of that.”

“Did he even have fifty to spare? He’s been disappearing so damn much, there has to be some hole he’s pissing his money down.”

“Rent’s paid, don’t worry.”

How the hell could Dean
worry? Since he’d signed his contract for
Providence Academy
, he’d taken to covering most of the rent so the guys could save up some money. He’d hoped it would eventually make it so Tod and Chaz could get their own place. “I’m not going to be able to float you forever.”

“You haven’t been floating anyone. You hit the bigs and suggested we rent this place because you could pay half.” Chaz flopped on the couch and kicked his feet onto the worn coffee table. He immediately picked up his camera and started flipping through pictures—a common habit when a conversation started to bore him.

“You’re right.” Sighing, Dean sank into the recliner. “What are we gonna do with him?”

Chaz shook his head and flicked a piece of lint off the arm of the couch. “Do they have rehab for gambling addicts that you have no proof are even gambling anymore?”

“Yeah, but he has to actually want help before that’s going to do a damn bit of good.” Dean scrubbed at his face. This was
what he came here for. “We’ll deal with Tod later. Just make sure you let me know if he’s not pulling his weight.”

“Will do. Besides, lease is up in four months. I figure you’ll be fully moved in with Jade by then.” When he didn’t respond to that, Chaz took a different tack. “So, how is the girl?”

Dean shook off his worries about Todrick. He’d just wanted a relaxing day with the guys—this conversation had
been on his agenda. “She’s good.”


He shot his friend a look. “What the hell?”

“Dude, you still have shit here and you didn’t say a word when I suggested you wouldn’t be re-upping the lease. If she was just a booty call, you wouldn’t be staying at her place, but if things were serious, you’d have moved all your stuff by now.” Chaz wasn’t looking at him—he stayed focused on his camera—as if he knew the announcement would go over like a ton of bricks.

Even though he could have, he hadn’t told Chaz or Tod about Jade’s plan or his part in it, but Chaz had always read women far too well. “It’s not like that.”

“Then what is it like? Because you’re obviously into this chick, and I’m not buying that she’s the one holding back.” He tossed his camera aside as he swung around, planting his feet squarely on the floor and meeting Dean’s eyes at last. “No more bullshit. What’s going on?”

Maybe all this had happened for a reason: Jade’s sudden job, Tod not being here… He needed to talk to someone, and Chaz was as close to family as he had. “Fine. She’s not really my girlfriend. It’s nothing but an act so she can get this other guy.”

“What about all the hot sex you said you were having?”

“Oh, that’s real enough. Best sex of my life. I have this insane hope that keeping her satisfied is going to convince her that she really doesn’t want anyone else.”

Chaz laughed so hard he was clutching his gut by the time he stopped. “You can’t be serious. There isn’t a guy alive who’s got enough game to fuck a woman away from one who’s willing to put a ring on it. And I know you, you don’t believe in forever. If all you have to offer is your dick, you’ve already lost.”

When he put it that way, it was like a slap in the face with reality. What the hell
Dean have to offer Jade besides sex? Stamina? No, that was basically just another way of saying sex. He had his job, but she already had a great job, so she didn’t need him to support her financially. She already had a huge circle of friends and an active social life. A sense of adventure? She had that in spades long before she met him.

“Fuck me. I don’t even know what she needs that I could actually give her.”

serious.” Chaz shook his head. “Okay. Real talk. This isn’t about needs, man, it’s about what she wants. This other guy…what is he offering that she’s throwing all in to get him?”

“Ugh. No gambling metaphors, please. And why the hell would that matter?” The
thing he wanted to think or talk about was Alfredsson.

“Because, dumbass, if she’s looking at him as the prize, you need to figure out why. Epic as the sex may be, that’s
you’re giving her. If you really want to hold on to the woman, you have to stop thinking like a horn-dog teenager and up your fucking game. Romance her pants off first…then fuck her again.”

Shit. How was he supposed to pull that off?

What the hell was Alfredsson bringing to the table? A life away from Los Angeles? That wasn’t a draw, not with her career and friends here. But he was offering commitment, and stability…and a future that included a goddamn picket fence and kids.

Nothing about Dean’s relationship with Jade so far had given her any hints of that possibility with him. He’d attempted to woo her with sex and a good time and, if Chaz was right, that wasn’t going to be nearly enough. He had to do better. Jade was the first person in his life who made him feel like being himself was a good thing. Hell, that being himself was
There was no way he was ready to give her up, not without doing everything in his power to convince her to stay.

Chapter Ten

The middle of a goddamn shoot. Really? He should have fucking known better, but Isak had waltzed into her studio like it was the most natural thing in the world. The only good thing was that her client, Christienne Cecile, was a friend and an exhibitionist anyway, so she didn’t care who saw her half naked.

Jade’s momentum with the shoot was shattered, though, and her hopes for getting home early and soothing away the headache that had been growing all day were dashed. She stalked over to the door. “What the fuck are you doing here?”

“Such language.”

From Dean those words would h
ave been a j
oke; from Isak they were an admonishment that alternately embarrassed her and made her bristle. Four weeks ago, she would have automatically gone into simpering mode where he was concerned, but after spending all this time with a guy who liked her exactly as she was, she had a tough time bringing out little-miss-meek-and-mild. “I’m working, Isak. The sign on the door clearly reads:
by appointment only.
You don’t have an appointment today, so what are you doing here?”

“I have some free time this evening and was wondering if you and Dean would like to have dinner again.”

“Sorry,” she said, really wanting to get back to work. “He has a late night on set. Maybe some other time.”

“Perhaps just the two of us, then.”

She was set to turn around and get back to her camera, but those few syllables stopped her in her tracks. This was exactly the sort of invitation she’d been waiting for—Isak coming to
. It no longer mattered that he’d done it in the worst possible way. She couldn’t turn him down, not if she still had any intention of giving their relationship another chance. She had an errant thought for Dean, working, with no way of knowing she’d be stepping out with the other guy, but it wasn’t enough to change her mind. This was precisely what their whole plan had been leading up to. He knew that as well as she did.

Jade nodded. “I’m going to be another hour here, probably closer to two since you broke my momentum. Text me where to meet you, and I’ll be there. Just please make it somewhere I’m dressed appropriately for, since I haven’t been keeping a change of clothes here for the last several weeks.”

It had been more abrupt than her normal demeanor with Isak, but that’s what he got for showing up now.

He barely batted an eye. “I’ll see you later then.” Out the door and down the stairs.

And then she remembered to breathe.

Christienne sidled over, wearing nothing but a top hat and a smile, and rested a hand gently on her arm. “You and the Swede, huh? Can’t say I saw that one coming.”

Most people wouldn’t. If Jade were honest with herself, she had to admit it didn’t make much sense, even with the long list of lovers in her past. Then again, neither did becoming a spinster in Hollywood. At what point had she decided settling down meant settling for a lack of passion?

Her gaze drifted to where Christienne’s fingers flexed against her skin. So many people in her past—why Isak? Safety no longer felt like a good enough answer, and if she couldn’t identify a better one, maybe she needed to take a step back and reevaluate what the hell she was doing. She wasn’t ready to give up her life here on a whim anymore.

Which was as good a reason as any for the one-on-one with him tonight. Some time without Dean on hand, distracting her, would help solidify the choice she had started wavering over. Or give her the conviction to change her decision. Dinner with Isak was the simplest way to ensure she wasn’t making a terrible mistake.

Rolling her shoulders, Jade pushed herself into work mode again. Dating woes and her future could wait until she had Christienne in street clothes again. “What do you think about adding fishnets, those Bond-girl platforms, and the skull-headed cane?”

“I think you’re a fucking genius.” Christienne leaned in and pressed a kiss to her cheek, right next to her ear, then whispered, “You’re also avoiding the question, but I won’t pry. Just know when you eventually get bored with him, you have a lot of people here who love you.”

“Thanks, and fix your fucking lipstick.”

As Christienne sauntered toward the changing screen, her hips swaying with every step, Jade realized that was a large part of what was holding her back—all the people here. The ones she loved, the ones she liked, the ones she wasn’t sure she could actually live without. At first the idea of moving to Sweden had seemed smart—fewer chances for her to regret her decision if she wasn’t surrounded by all the temptation Hollywood offered—but the longer she considered it, the worse it looked.

Who would she become without her network of friends? When things got tough, what was she supposed to do? FaceTime Vicky? That would never work, especially not with a baby in the mix.

And what would she do without Dean and his support of who she was? Everything she was? Day by day, he was working his way into her life, and she wasn’t sure she was willing to let him go. Not for stability. Maybe not for anything.

For the moment, she needed to get her head in the game, but tonight she was going to have to start making some hard decisions about her future—and who it would and wouldn’t include.

Chaz was wrong. He had to be. Jade wasn’t like other women, much less women just out of college. She knew who she was and what she wanted out of life. She’d as much as told him that she was looking at giving Alfredsson another shot because she thought she
settle down, not because she wanted to, not because she wanted that tool as a husband.

Nope. Dean was going to play this smart and work with his strengths.

And he’d been reminding himself of that for over a week now. Meanwhile, nothing had changed.

“Cut! Damn it, people, where the hell are your heads tonight?” Bernie Morgan, their director, was pissed, and he had eve
ry right to be. This scene wasn’t going well at all. “Everyone take five and get your asses back here, ready to work. I don’t know about you, but I’d like to get home to my family at some point.”

And Dean definitely wanted to get back to Jade. For the first couple minutes of break, he pondered how he might surprise her. Then he grabbed one of the production assistants running around, putting on his best good-guy smile. “Hey, is there any way you can get me some stuff?”

The guy shot a covert glance back at Bernie. “What kind of stuff?”

“Oh. No. Not drugs.” Dean shook his head, trying to banish thoughts of where so many kids he’d known in the system had ended up. “I need a can of spray whipped cream, maraschino cherries, chocolate syrup, candy sprinkles—”

“Do you want a pint of ice cream to go with that?”

He was almost tempted to say yes, but he really didn’t want anything that would melt. “No. Maybe a box of those funky rolled cookies, if you can find those.”

“Pirouettes?” At Dean’s nod, the PA raced off, likely on some other errand.

“Thanks!” Dean called, but the guy didn’t stop. Whatever—as long as he didn’t fuck up the list if he delegated the job to someone else.

Dean was finally going to have that dessert date with his amazing woman tonight, and since he was missing out on dinner with her, he wanted their late-night snack to be absolutely perfect.

“On set, people! Let’s nail it this time.”

Hopping to his feet, Dean got back in position. Now that he had the Jade thing worked out, he could focus on being someone else for the rest of his time on set. If everyone else had their shit together, they’d be able to finish up in a couple hours and he could get back to the one place in the world where he was able to be himself without worrying what anyone thought.

“Was everything okay at the studio? You seemed rather tense.” Isak’s fingers tapped on the table, the motion grabbing Jade’s attention more than his words had. The drumming echoed in a strange rhythm in her head—like a death march.

It felt wrong to be here with him…alone. Like she was cheating, even though Dean knew as well as she did that their relationship was a sham. Wasn’t it? She’d never told him otherwise, but part of her wasn’t so sure anymore, especially not if she felt this way over a simple dinner out. “I don’t like interruptions at work. I thought you knew about that…from before.”

And damn it, she was back to this timid shadow of
herself. She might bottom in the bedroom sometimes, but she wasn’t submissive to any man outside of it. Why couldn’t she be her normal snarktastic self with Isak? Things with Dean were so effortless that it made the change in her demeanor around Isak stand out in stark contrast.

Without missing a beat, Isak refilled her wineglass. “I apologize. The other day when Dean stopped in during our appointment, you didn’t seem the least perturbed. I made the faulty assumption your attitude on interruptions had changed.”

What the…? Was this really some weird version of
do you like him better than you liked me?
“No. Our camera time was finished. Had Dean shown up while I was still photographing you, I wouldn’t have let him off nearly so easily.”

“Ah. Trouble in paradise then? I’d imagine with his age, impulse control would be a common problem.”

Jade stopped with the glass at her lips and let it rest there. The leap in logic was absurd. It was as if Isak was trying desperately to poke holes in their relationship. Her initial reaction was to lecture him on making that sort of assumption and judging Dean on his youth. But she held back, both because she never talked to Isak that way and because he’d opened a door leading directly to her end game.

This was the perfect opportunity to let him know things
working with Dean, to tell him she missed him. In just a few words, she could let him know she was still interested and that he shouldn’t go back to Sweden without making sure she didn’t want to go with him. It would be the easiest thing in the world to do.

Instead she set down the glass and said, “Like most couples, we’re a work in progress.”

As soon as the words were out of her mouth, she started to wonder why she’d said that. What the hell was she so afraid to let go of? Even if she wanted him in her life, Dean hadn’t promised her forever. He’d never even
at forever. They had sex—amazing sex, but it was just sex. If she removed coitus from the equation, what did they really have left? Companionship? Friendship?

While she was busy pondering, Isak reached across the table, took her hand, and squeezed until she looked up to meet his gaze. The smile that lit his eyes was the one that used to make her melt, but right now she was too confused, too cold to respond at all.

“Do me one favor, Jade.”

“What’s that?” she asked, still more focused on Dean than Isak’s persistence.

“Let me know when your work in progress is finished.”

Where the hell was she? Dean had worried because he’d gotten home a little later than he’d planned, but when he walked through the door…no Jade. Her keys weren’t even on the console table. He’d spent ten minutes trying to decide if their “relationship” granted him the right to text and check up on her.

Knowing her preference for privacy, his gut said no. Plus, she knew the business. Him saying he’d be back by nine thirty probably meant ten to her, more likely eleven. So, he waited. And then he paced. It was 11:11 when he finally picked up his phone to text her. Before he’d even finished typing, the door opened and she walked inside, looking beautiful but complet
ely exhausted.

Her shoulders sagged, and she was carrying her heels—fold-up ballet flats on her feet instead. She’d taken her hair down at some point, the waves swishing listlessly across her shoulders. She never did that until she went to bed. And her eyes were shot through with red.

Any irritation at her unexplained absence was forgotten under the weight of that expression. “Are you okay? Did something happen?”

She didn’t look injured, but he knew very well that didn’t mean anything—some hurts were invisible.

She shook her head. “I’m okay. I…went out to dinner with Isak.”

Every muscle in Dean’s body tensed, ready for a fight or an attack or a
get out of my condo, we’re done
, but none came. Still, he couldn’t relax. This was what Chaz had warned him about—she had a plan, and Dean was nothing but a step in her grand scheme.

Well, Dean had a plan, too, and with the way she looked right now, he still had a chance of succeeding. Something had gone down, but she wasn’t going to volunteer any information, which meant he needed to coax it out of her.

Or sex it out. He wasn’t picky.

“Okay. So what happened at dinner with Alfredsson?”

“Okay?” She looked at him with one brow raised like he’d said something crazy.

Maybe he had. He’d instinctively defaulted to actor mode, but he needed more than that tonight. “I’m not going to pretend I’m excited you were out with him—because I’m really fucking not—but I am trying like hell to stick within the guidelines you set for all of this. That means I don’t have the right to pull out my jealous boyfriend act, no matter how badly I want to.”

“I…” She bit her lip, and he had to wonder if this was the first time she’d really thought about him in terms of actually
her boyfriend. It only took a few seconds for her to recover, but the pause had been there. Maybe just the realization would be enough for her to see how great they were together, to— “It’s nothing, really. He just gave me a lot to think about, so I ended up driving around for a while, trying to sort through everything in my head.”

Evasion was a less positive response than he’d hoped for. “And did you?”


“But you don’t want to talk about it?”

“Not really.” She shook off her negativity like it was a shawl and forced a smile. Her eyes were so green—like they’d been the last time they’d had dinner with Alfredsson. The night they’d fought and she’d tried to hold back tears. “Unfortunately, this is something I need to figure out on my own.”

Which, as far as Dean was concerned, translated to
it’s not going to matter to you in a few weeks, so I won’t bother you with the details
. Shit. Time to put his own plan into play before Alfredsson got her completely wrapped around his little finger.

BOOK: Playing the Perfect Boyfriend (Gone Hollywood)
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